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Archive for August, 2010

Okay, much apologizing here.  First off, sorry to Numaar, but Spring’s next posts will make it clear why I chose Fasset over your suggestion.  I promise you, the Numbraran Empire is next.

Secondly, sorry for the length.  If people don’t want to read the whole thing I understand.  It would up being much longer than I thought it would.

Quick Facts

  • Fasset is the name of a continent, the only nation on that continent, and the capital city of that nation.  It is pronounced like the word ‘facet’, as in a facet of a gem.
  • The language of Fasset is Fassetian.  It is pronounced like the word ‘fashion.’
  • Goods or people originating in Fasset are also referred to as being Fassetian.
  • The city’s population is roughly 2.3 million humanoids.  The continent’s population is just under four million.  Not included in these statistics is a sizable population of giants.
  • The continent is approximately 1.8 million square miles in area.
  • Major Exports: Gems, lumber, ore, artwork (of all kinds), exotic slaves (such as ogres)
  • Major Imports: Food (although the city can sustain itself), mundane slaves, spices, tools

 

The continent of Fasset is a rugged land mostly dominated by thick forests and imposing mountains.  It is mostly populated by giants and monsters.  It is one continental landmass, divided in half by a narrow channel.  The channel can only be navigated one way (north to south) and cuts the continent apart, with the eastern half being about half of the size of the western half, although far more mountainous.

Giants and monstrous humanoids control most of the continent.  Human incursion can be made into the western Fasset, which is primarily populated by ogres and the smaller monsters.  The larger, more forbidding mountains of eastern Fasset are home to the more powerful varieties of giants, as well as a host of dragons and other dangerous creatures.

Impenetrable

                Fasset is often referred to as ‘the impossible target.’  Largely, this is because it has never been successfully invaded by any military force.  The natural and man-made features of the city (and the continent itself) make it nigh impossible to invade.

                To begin with, the continent has nowhere to land.  The entirety of it is ringed by cliffs, which rise to their highest at nearly three thousand feet, and their lowest (within the city itself) at just over six hundred feet.  These cliffs are treacherous to climb, and although some small paths have been carved to coves or tiny spits of beach along the coast, these trails are only wide enough for a single man or ogre to navigate.  A very, very few exist that are wider, but they inevitably lead directly into the communities of the giants who created them.  These tend to be the largest and least friendly of the giant types.

                In addition to the aforementioned monsters and terrain hazards, the city is only accessible by a single ocean passage, which takes multiple days to travel down and can only be navigated by a small number of ships at a time.  There is more than enough time for the aquatic lookouts along the passage to send word back to the city, and any naval invasion is doomed to face a wall of ships once they reach the larger bays of the community itself.

                As if this weren’t enough, magical travel is impossible in Fasset.  Any form of translocation magic (even Dimension Door) cast on the continent (either as the destination or point of origin) result in the traveler arriving in a random destination on the landmass.  Unwise spell casters will find that they might even find themselves arriving over the ocean.  Some spell casters use this as a last ditch escape attempt, but the unpredictability of arrival (some wizards have arrived several hundred feet in the air) makes it dangerous at best.

The Path

                The narrow ocean channel that divides Fasset starts at the north-eastern coast of the landmass, heading along a gently winding route until it reaches the city of Fasset itself.  The northern half of the passage is called the Path.  It is swift, although the turns are gentle, and it is easily navigated.  The cliffs on either side are as steep as they are anywhere along the coast, and far enough apart to permit three ships to travel alongside one another, provided they are small and careful.

                On the way out of Fasset, however, the channel turns deadly.  Referred to by natives as the Chute, the single waterway of the Path begins to branch off, turning into a violent mess of different channels.  The Chute is perhaps the most deadly feature of Fasset.  No matter how one chooses to navigate it, there are numerous perils awaiting any traveler who journeys the Chute.

                In some of the passages, the current is increased by the numerous waterfalls that line the city of Fasset and the Chute itself, as well high winds and narrow walls.  In these routes, a ship that turns a fraction of a second too late will be dashed to pieces.  Many ships are forced to maneuver at high speeds through gaps which leave no more than a few inches of clearance on either side of the ship.

                Other paths are slower, and some are nearly still.  The crews who sail along these routes get no respite, however, for the slower routes are beset by monsters.  Giants of several varieties use these slow moving waterways to spear human prey as they would spear a fish.  Feral aquatic monsters also make these areas their homes.  Small bands of pirates, shipwrecked, try to take goods, supplies, or even a ship if they are lucky.

                Any captain attempting to navigate the Chute must have a route already in mind.  No two captains will sail with the exact same course.  Many captains on their first voyage (usually experienced sailors finally in command of their own ship) will try to improve on the routes they have seen, in order to find a safer alternative.  A sad fact of maritime life in Fasset is that one in ten vessels which attempt to navigate the chute will not make it.  For ships with a first-time captain, only three in five will survive the journey.

                Crews which survive the Chute will suffer an average of a 17% mortality rate.  The mortality rate of the crew depends mostly on the type of route chosen by the captain.  The ships which choose the fast routes have a much higher chance of wrecking, but those that make the journey intact can expect most of their crew to survive.  Larger, less maneuverable vessels must choose the slower routes, and inevitably suffer a far higher casualty rate combating monsters.  Fortunately for such a crew, their vessels are larger, which tends to mean that they have a larger group of sailors.

                The Chute has claimed more lives than any geographical feature of Valt, including the Stormbelt.  Veteran sailors often brag about how many times they have navigated its treacherous waters.  And most captains find that the price paid for such voyages is worth the reward.

Riches

                Fasset is the wealthiest land in Valt, per capita.  This is in large part due to the high concentration of gems found there.  Every known type of mineable gem can be found in Fasset.  There are such a high number of gems in the land that they are severely devalued.  In general, a gem in Fasset is only worth about half of its normal value elsewhere.  Many trading ships make Fasset their first stop, trading hard coin for gems, and then purchasing the wares along the rest of their journey with the precious stones.  Of course, Fassetian gem merchants know this, and sell the sailors gems at an inflated (for Fasset) price.

                Fasset isn’t only known for its gems.  The land is rich in timber, ore, and stone, making it a valuable trading hub.  Their craftsmen know how to make vessels more able to survive the Chute, and only the Jade Islanders can compete with them when it comes to the skills of their shipwrights.  The worked goods of the city only add to the temptation for ships to brave the dangers of the Chute.  One voyage can make a merchant rich, and those who make a habit out of it either retire to unbelievable wealth, or find themselves at the bottom of the Chute.

The City

                The city of Fasset is a marvel.  Those sailing the Path will eventually find it opening out into a series of interconnecting bays.  Each is surrounded by the ever-present cliffs of Fasset, and it is on these cliffs that the city is built.  Walkways and boardwalks have been built into the rock to extend the available area to the city, but the city’s growth has been (by necessity) more vertical than horizontal.  The six hundred vertical feet of cliffs provide more than ample room for the people of the city to live in.  Although there is building into the cliffs, and many homes are built into the stone, a good number of buildings, homes, and establishments are either in part or in whole build on the wooden walkways that surround the city.

                Ramps, stairs, ladders, and ropes all provide access from one level to another.  The high amount of support ropes throughout the city (as well as ever-present support structures for the level overhead) means that characters with the ability to brachiate can do so as if they were in a wooded environment.

                The wealthiest citizens live at the highest levels, with the businesses and population getting poorer the farther down one goes.  The city’s construction does not end at the water level, but continues on down, into the submerged section of Fasset populated by its aquatic residents.  Two levels (known by locals as ‘Shiftside levels’) are within the tidal band of the city, underwater part of the time and dry at others.  It is mostly businesses in this sector.  In a bit of irony, the laborers in these businesses during the low tides are the poorest and worst paid in Fasset.  During high tides, when they are staffed by aquatic residents, they are considered to be elite establishments, and employment there is highly sought after.

                Citizens of the city are identified by signet rings, and even the poorest slave has one, issued by the government.  Each is unique, and there is a colossal registry dedicated to recycling old ones back into use, as well as monitoring the ones that exist.  Forging a ring, or owning a forged ring, is punishable by death.

Government

                The government of Fasset is technically a monarchy.  The city is (in theory) ruled by a council of elected individuals (one thousand in total) who in turn elect the Lord Mayor of the city.  Some centuries ago, the Scaled Emperor was elected to the position, and through cunning manipulation, managed to secure power over the council.  He has absolute power, although he largely leaves the running of the city to the council.

                The current Lord Mayor is the Scaled Emperor, a malenti (which is a subtype of sahuagin) and a vicious tyrant.  Very little is known about him now, since he rarely gives public audience.  He entered the city more than four hundred years ago.  How he has survived is as much a mystery as how he gained entry, since outsiders have always been closely scrutinized, and the sea elf guards would certainly have spotted him.  Since his election he has managed to divert more power to his own position, and build Fasset up from a lucrative side-destination for merchants to the most valuable trading spot in the world.  Although little is known about him, he is certainly a dangerous individual, able to handle himself against personal threats.  He has defeated numerous assassination attempts by himself.

                There are a large number of guilds within Fasset, representing many different professions, as well as the usual thieves guilds and assassins guilds.  Most guilds have one or more representatives on the council.

                The third base of power in the city is the Bureaucracy.  Bureaucrats are one of the most populous professions in the city.  The Bureaucracy is a combination sage’s guild, financial institution, and domestic records keeping organization.  They handle nearly all government jobs, education, and administration.  They have divisions for accounting, finance, education, taxation, and a number of other functions.  Members of the Bureaucracy can be identified by their simple linen clothes, with v-neck tunics, corded belts, and cloth boots.  The color of their clothes denotes their specific functions.  (Green denotes finance, red denotes foreign relations with dwarves, etc)  The cuffs of the clothing indicate any sub-specialty.

Outsiders

                Outsiders are viewed with suspicion by the government of the city.  Every incoming ship is searched, and the guards who do the searching are equipped with the ability to detect magic.  Any magic users are hauled to the palace for questioning.  Magic users who are not citizens of Fasset must leave immediately (and usually pay a stiff fine) or be pressed into service for the city.

                Magic users looking for a decent line of work might consider working for Fasset.  The city will take any spell-caster, no matter the origin.  They will happily utilize their talents for the city’s greatest benefit.  Those who serve loyally are rewarded very well indeed, and many members of the upper crust of Fassetian society are magic users employed by the state.

                The government is paranoid about any attempt to destabilize them (with good reason.)  They carefully monitor outsiders to ensure that no one is trying to trade with domestic organizations trying to overthrow them, and any merchant who supplies such a band of outlaws will find themselves in very fatal trouble.

                Outside of the city, the land is ruled by monsters.  Giants war with dragons for the mountains, and lesser monsters control the lowlands.  Those who dwell in the wilderness of Fasset almost invariably live in a nomadic, tribal society.  The only exception to this is a community of dwarves that live deep in the mountains of the eastern side of Fasset.  They have an amicable trade relationship with the city of Fasset, however, most among them would relish the chance to see a less avaricious government in place.

Dealings with Others

                Fasset is technically at war with everyone.  Every other nation on Valt would love nothing more than to see Fasset’s government torn down and a more reasonable one put into its place.  The problem is that there is no reliable way to prosecute such a war.  Fasset is nearly impenetrable, so invasion is out.  It is self-sufficient, making siege impossible.  And every other nation needs the goods coming from Fasset more than Fasset needs theirs.  It makes the conflicts almost comical, since every ship that sails in is sailing under enemy colors.

                Traditionally, however, Fasset is neutral.  They have historically taken no stance in conflicts, except where the minions of Silduggis are concerned.  The city is a political island, where most issues are set aside in the pursuit of trade.

                The city does do a lively trade with the ogres of the areas outside the city walls.  Mostly slaves and lumber come in, in exchange for worked goods or food.  The more trade is done with the ogres, the less the citizens of Fasset have to go out to get what they need.

                There are also many connections to the Underdark in Fasset.  Typically the Fassetians trade surface goods (fruits, vegetables, grains, wood, and seafood) in exchange for stone, metal, or subterranean staples (Such as rothé or fungal foods).  There is even a subset of dark elves that prefer the solitary life, riding their lizards and leading large herds of rothé to be sold in Fasset.  Wielding whips and lassos, these ‘drowboys’ are one of the most unexpected dangers outside the walls of the city.

                Underdark connections within the city itself are denied by the government, although most believe they must surely exist.

People

                The citizens of Fasset are a mixed lot, and many are the descendents of shipwreck survivors, so the cultural heritage is blended into the existing one.  Natives tend to be dark brown of skin and hair, with a slight accent.

                Among elves, rock elves and sea elves predominate, with wood elves being common outside of the city.  There is no noticeable demographic distinction between types of gnomes or dwarves within Fasset.

                The city is known for its diversity, and any citizen willing to follow the laws is given an equal opportunity to do so.  Although unofficial nepotism exists that favors humans and saguagin, pushing half-ogres and sea elves to the bottom of the social strata, it is mild enough that many dismiss it as the whining of the lazy or unmotivated.

                The ogrish population of Fasset is very large, and after humans, half-ogres make up the second largest racial group in the city.  Full blooded ogres are not uncommon, although they stick to the wilderness for the most part.

                The people of Fasset love new experiences, and always enjoy trying a new food, listening to a new style of music, or playing a new game.  With so many merchants moving through the city on a daily basis, they have exposure to a broader variety of cultures than most people in Valt.

                Outside the walls of the city, most people of Fasset tend to live in small tribal groups, separated by race.  The natives here have lighter (although still dark) skin, and view outsiders with far more distrust than their city-dwelling countrymen.

Summation

                Fasset is a land of contradictions.  With such a broad divide between the views of its government and its populace, it presents an appealing and yet dangerous destination to visit. 

The city so safe from outside threats is at the same time nearly blind to what is happening on the rest of the continent.  The wilderness of the continent could house any number of dangers, from an organized assault by giants to something more sinister.  No one has ever charted it fully, and no colony city has survived for more than a decade.

With every passing decade, the Scaled Emperor becomes more greedy and tyrannical, yet his seeming immortality and the impossibility of foreign takeover make removing him a task of immense difficulty.  Nearly every civilized government would like to see him taken down, but none have the power to do it.

                Fasset is a land which changes very slowly, if at all, primarily because the people are happy (at least within the city).  Like the rock that they live on, the people of Fasset only change under great stress.  Whether the next great stress will result from the Scaled Emperor finally pushing the people too far, or from a sudden threat rising from the wilderness, only time will tell.

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Hearthsoap

So, my girlfriend, Spring, loves geeky things.  And recently she had the great and quasi-accidental joy of winning a bar of Hearthsoap from her friend Emma, over at ChronicGeek.  (Which I suggest you check out, regardless of your gender.)

The hearthsoap is awesome, and smells great!  It also functions as lovely decor.  I took some pictures of it for comparison, to show how much it brightens up our apartment.

Our Hearthsoap

Oh, hey, what’s this?

Hi little guy! You like our new decoration?

Wait a minute…

What do you think you're doing? Don't touch that!

Crap.

Don’t worry everyone.  I got my hearthsoap back.  Unfortunately, now it’s attuned to R’lyeh.

Thanks again to Emma!  In addition, thanks to the folks at Geeksoap for creating the hearthsoap.  Also, thanks to Ruth for the adorable little marauder from beyond the stars!

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As a quick introduction, Tantori is a dark horse deity for me.  I created him to kind of fill out the Silduggan pantheon, and was surprised at the reaction he got.  Not only did the back story I created for him fit, every time his clergy has shown up in my games, my players have reacted with extreme fear and outrage.  Due to this, he rapidly became one of my favorite gods in the game.

Tantori (tan-TORE-ee)

The Betrayer, Lord of Machinations, the Traitor Priest

NE Lesser Deity of the Soulvoid

 

Pantheon: Silduggan

Portfolio: Betrayal, treachery, nihilism

Domain: None

Allies: Silduggis

Foes: Any non-Silduggan deity

Superior: Silduggis

Symbol: Special (see Vestments, below)

Worshipper Alignment: LE, NE, CE

Favored Weapon: “Nihil” (Quarterstaff)

Cleric Domains: Evil, Destruction, Planning, Trickery

Summary: Tantori is the god of treason, traitors, and betrayers.  In the hierarchy of Silduggis’s three part plan, Tantori is the divine embodiment of division.  He focuses his attentions on dividing the sentient races against each other, fomenting war and conflict wherever he goes.  He is a phenomenal liar, and one of the greatest orators in creation, which makes him doubly dangerous.  The mere existence of his clerics is enough to plant doubt in the minds of normal clerics as to the loyalties of their fellow clergy members.

History/Relationships: Tantori was once a mortal man, a cleric of Lolmoro.  He journeyed across the face of Valt, spreading the faith of his god behind him.  In his youth he fought against evil and protected the weak.  Later, he ministered to the sick and injured, educated the ignorant, and made himself available as a guide, both social and spiritual.  His advice was highly sought after by heads of state as well as religious figures.  He believed that in devotion to goodness before any specific deity, and gave aid to many religions besides his own.  Even today, many holy texts from a variety of religions contain scriptures originally penned by Tantori.

                In his later years, his wisdom was so great that even the gods sent minions to him to receive his counsel, or to test that this man was indeed as wise as his reputation stated.  There was no philosophical question he could not answer, no conundrum so great that he could not make peace with it.

                Silduggis came to Tantori, possessing a mortal peddler.  At first the people of the church were afraid, but Tantori calmly told them that any being could be made to see reason, to understand the power and the light of good.  He took the Nothing Eyes into his temple, to converse with as he would any other seeker.  He never emerged.

                No one knows what Silduggis said or showed to Tantori.  Whatever it was was so terrible, so mind-shattering, that Tantori abandoned everything in his life.  He appeared to the most pure of the priests on Valt, so that none would think his conversion a deceit.  He claimed that all he had been living for was a lie.  His new path was one of nihilism.  Truly, a man who had once seemed to understand everything had now turned to nothing.

                Tantori’s elevation to divinity followed soon after.  Alone among the Silduggan deities, he serves the Nothing Eyes in order to see the Dark One’s plans for no personal gain.  Once Silduggis destroys everything, Tantori would happily submit to his own destruction.

                The Betrayer has very little in the way of relationships with other deities.  He is devoted to Silduggis, but has no particular loyalty to Silduggis’s other followers.  Boneburn was once his friend, when Tantori was a mortal, and the Mongrel has made many attempts to persuade his friend back to peace and reason.  Thus far these attempts have been ignored.

Manifestations: A manifestation of the Betrayer is rare.  Like his clerics, Tantori spends his time infiltrating other divine hierarchies and betraying them from within, convincing them to turn on other groups or on themselves in futile conflicts.  Devils and archangels alike fear his influence, and are ever on their guard for him.

                Rarely he will appear to a particularly wise or spiritual mortal.  He inevitably attempts to influence them to turn from their path and embrace nihilism.  Very few of these meetings result in conversion, however, lending credence to the beliefs of the Inevitable Turn.  (See below)

                When he does appear, it is always as he looked in life: a human male in his late forties.  His hair is gray, and he is clean shaven.  His face is always knowing and sad at the same time, as if he knows that all mortal actions are futile, but he is powerless to stop them.

THE CHURCH

                The Tantorites are an oddity in Valt.  They do not accept clerics who are merely worshippers of Tantori.  To be a member of their clergy, one must have formerly been a cleric of a non-Silduggan deity who converted.

Priests: Tantorites

Alignment: CE, NE, LE

Classes: Cleric, blackguard (former paladins only), druid (blighter, former druids only)

Dogma: All that you know shall pass away.

Day-to-Day activities: Clerics of Tantori insinuate themselves into normal clergies.  (Usually ones that they were former members of.)  From there, they subtly manipulate things in small ways, in order to bring about the largest destruction.  Although they are very well coordinated, and stay in regular contact with one another, each member is largely autonomous.  They frequently use adventurers or lay members of the church as cat’s-paws.

                One nearly unifying trait is the spread of the rumor of the Osperi.  According to myth, the Osperi are relics from before mortals came to Valt.  Items of ancient magic or powerful lore, these artifacts are capable of inflicting great harm to the minions or agenda of Silduggis.  Rumor of their existence continues to circulate throughout Valt, despite there being no confirmed proof of the existence of a single one.  The Osperi are almost certainly a lie created by the Tantorites, but many believe in them anyway.

Worship Locations: None.  The church does not meet as a single entity.  Each of their members is a lone agent.

Affiliated Orders: None.

Apostasy: The Inevitable Turn is a movement within the Tantorite religion with no real organization.  About five percent of Tantorites are members, however.  Believers in the Inevitable Turn believe that as the god of betrayal and lies, when the last moment comes, Tantori will destroy Silduggis before destroying himself.  They may be of CN alignment if they wish, and have access to the Retribution domain.  Other than this, they have no major divergence from the practices and beliefs of other Tantorites.  Unlike other apostasies, there is no resentment between those of the mainstream religion and those of the Inevitable Turn.

Vestments: Tantorites wear the same thing as whatever kind of priest they are pretending to be.  Their holy symbol is the same as whatever god they previously worshipped, but blackened, scarred, and mutilated.  They frequently wear double sided holy symbols, with the regular one in front and the secret, defaced one on the hidden side.

Holy Days/Ceremonies: None.

Oath: The Oath of Conviction.  If a cleric with this oath is slain, he or she is consumed by the Soulvoid.  They may never be raised or resurrected by any means.  In exchange, their alignment is always treated as being the same as whatever deity they worshipped before converting to Tantori’s church.  The ability to mask their alignment in this way is a supernatural ability that can be suppressed at will.

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I thought I would take a moment to talk about Valt in it’s role as a story setting.

Every veteran gamer has seen a dozen and one game settings, and knows that each one is different from the other.  Spelljammer was a game of “You got sci-fi in my fantasy!/You got fantasy in my sci-fi!”.  Ravenloft was the game about hopelessness, despair, and powerlessness.  So what separates Valt?  What are the key things that the world (as a story setting) is about?

Polarization– The first and foremost element of Valt is a feeling of “Us vs Them”.  Even if the players don’t want to take part in it, they are part of an ‘Us’.  Many ‘Us’s’, in point of fact.  And to each ‘Us’, there is a ‘Them.’  It’s like a giant food web, with the players trying to avoid being eaten by all the conflicts around them.  Often times in Valt, the PC’s will be forced to work with someone they hate in order to fight an force that views both parties (the PC’s and their enemies) as “Them.”

History– There is a lot of known history in Valt, and more that has been lost.  The return of the lost and forgotten enemy is a common factor, meaning that researching the history of the world is usually necessary.

No man is an island– The PC’s aren’t the only adventurers in the world.  Many times the party will run into other adventuring groups operating in their area.  Sometimes the two parties are existing cotangently, both sides pursuing their own adventure arcs.  Sometimes they can find themselves in competition.  On rare occasions, they might find themselves in opposition.

Betrayal– Valt is an evil world, filled with evil creatures.  This pervasive wickedness creeps in everywhere, and touches everything.  At some point in every Valt campaign, the PC’s should be betrayed by a trusted friend and ally.  (So much the better if it is one of them.)

Continuity– Typically, after every Valt game I advance the timeline a century or two.  The actions of the PC’s matter, and shape the world.  For instance, the Scaled Emperor was never supposed to rule over Fassett, but the game ended before the PC’s got around to dealing with the threat.  What the PC’s do, and how they do it, has long lasting effects.

Artificiality– Valt isn’t supposed to support life.  Whatever the nature of Silduggis, his malignancy has spread to every corner of the world, and everything is tainted by it.  Nature itself tends towards evil, and the environment of Valt is a harsh one.  Sentient races cannot co-exist with the land here, they must conquer it.

Fear of the unknown– The residents of Valt fear what they don’t understand.  New ideas are regarded with suspicion, and ‘outside’ people or ideas are immediately suspect.  Which leads to…

Tradition– The people of Valt tend to take a ‘if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it’ attitude, which means that bad problems usually get worse, and spiral out of control before anyone does anything about it.

No respite– Very few deities offer any kind of happy afterlife.  Generally, death is something to be feared and avoided.  This makes most people even more jaded and bitter the older they get, and has a particularly nasty effect on hero types, who are faced with the slow realization that they are doing a whole lot of good for very little reward.

Nothing is pure– There is no black and white in Valt.  Even the most upstanding and stalwart champion should have something in their past they feel horrendously guilty about.  Heroes are going to sometimes do bad things, and villains are going to sometimes do good things.  Many adventures in Valt revolve around ‘moral gray areas.’

These are the key themes in Valt.  Some of them I like to use in any game (especially the last one).  Some of these are unique to Valt.  I hope they help to clarify a little of why I do what I do.

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Drow and Darkness

I love the drow race for a variety of reasons.  First off, you always know what you get: evil.  What’s more, drow are supposed to be something that give all surface dwellers the willies, so any appearance of drow villains is a good opportunity as a DM to push the envelope of depravity.  I mean, in the canon material about drow, they engage in infanticide, fratricide, live sacrifice, sexual congress with demons, child abuse, drug abuse, mass murder, and worship of a demonic deity.  And that’s all in ONE book!

In games or fiction set among drow civilizations, it allows a bit of moral flexibility for the players/author.  When NO ONE is a good guy, then the “heroes” can do evil things and still have the support of the audience.  It allows for a very different kind of game (or book) and is one I thoroughly enjoy from time to time.

But the greatest joy of throwing drow into a game is when they betray the PC’s. You present them as an outcast, on the run from their own civilization for their refusal to be evil.  Or a renegade, raised outside of the vile drow cities, and brought up among peace loving folk.  Or even as a sympathetic villain, someone who didn’t want to become what they are, and would reform if given half a chance.

The greatest part about the above scenarios is this:  the PC’s fall for it.  EVERY TIME.  I don’t know why.  I myself fall for it.  I can’t explain it, but I love it.  Every game I have, I present a drow NPC with a sob story/sympathetic tale.  It’s  like a little mini-game, where the DM has to go to ever-increasing extremes to put one over on the players.  And they buy it.  Oh, do they buy it.

Now, I’m not one of those DM’s who enjoys screwing his players over.  If you tell me you want to pursue a prestige class that requires specific events befalling you, I will do my best to make sure that they do.  If you want to find a specific magic item or spell, I will make the opportunity available.  I want the players to have a part in building their own story.

But I just can’t resist the temptation to throw in the drow betrayal every so often.  Sometimes I think it is just a quest to one-up my own past achievements, but that might be me just spitballing.

While we are on the subject of drow, I thought I would make a specific note of my one real complaint about them:  in all the source material, it makes a big deal out of how they use Darkness extensively in combat.  I try and keep with that when using them in my games, but the spell is so often more hassle then it’s worth, with so many gray areas in its adjudication.  For instance, how does someone determine the difference between friend and foe?  How can you tell if the things around your feet are the result of Entangle or Evard’s Black Tentacles?  To solve these and most other Darkness-related conundrums, I usually default to the Wisdom check.  Set a DC, make ’em roll.  If they fail, they can’t discern what they want to know.  If they fail by 5 or more, then they draw a false conclusion.

Quotes from last game

Spring: “I hate you so much.”

Phil: “I want to kick you in the balls.”

Me: “I’m sorry guys–”

Phil: “Bullshit!  You are not.  Don’t speak those lies!”

Me: “Bwahahahaha!  I’m not sorry a bit!”  …dissolves into maniacal laughter…

All in all, drow?  Totally worth it.

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With so little information about Valt available to folks who aren’t actually playing in the game, I thought I would start a new series, the Spotlight on Valt.  I will focus on the nations, people, and organizations that make Valt unique.  I will of course continue the Deities of Valt series, sporadic as it may be.

Today I thought I would start with a summation of the major geographical and political players in Valt.

Numbrar– Both a nation and a continent, Numbrar is the largest in both categories.  Although it is primarily intended to be Roman in feel and tone, its size makes uniformity impossible.  Throughout the history of Valt, the Numbraran Empire has been the villain and the hero of my campaigns, and its borders have swelled and contracted to varying sizes.  It is a true empire, in both size and government.

The Jade Islands– A collection of islands centered around a larger landmass which is in turn broke up into several smaller nations, the Jade Isles is a collective monarchy.  Each nation rules itself, although they all pay fealty to a high king, who rules the entire collective.  The tone and theme of the islands is varied, and is intended to reflect a wide range of cultures, from those of the UK to Scandinavian.  The people of the Jade Islands are, without a doubt, the preeminent sailors in Valt.  (Which, quick trivia, was originally intended to be a primarily maritime game world.)  Within my games, the Jade Islands are frequently opposed to other nations, usually Numbrar.

Fassett– Like Numbrar, Fassett is both a continent and a nation.  Unlike Numbrar, it is the only nation on its self-titled continent.  Fassett is a city-state, with a culture that is wholly unique to Valt, although heavily influenced by a Carribbean theme.  Despite the fact that there is only a single permanent city in the whole nation, their geography makes them nigh impervious to military assault.  It is also unique in being one of the few regions of the world in which monsters are tolerated as citizens.  (In fact, half-ogres make up nearly fifteen percent of the city’s population.) Fassett is very rarely a political mover in my games, and is usually neutral.

Cadram– Cadram is a nation on the Numbraran continent.  Separated from the Numbraran nation by a vast desert, it is a coastal nation, with extremely favorable croplands.  The theme is strongly influenced by middle eastern cultures, and the Al-Qadim supplements would certainly not go amiss there!  It is governed by a monarchy, and usually serves as the opponent to Numbrar in my campaigns, either as heroes or villains.

Jheira– Jheira is south of Cadram, and is largely intended to reflect an African based background.  It has not figured largely into my games thus far, and when it is, it is as the adversary or ally of Cadram.  Although viewed as a nation by most outsiders, internally it is viewed as a confederation of smaller nations.  When outsiders must be dealt with, each nation sends a representative to a national conclave, which is empowered to make decisions for the nation as a whole.  However, this council is not usually used for domestic matters.

Shotan– Shotan borrows heavily from Japanese culture.  As I am not one of those gamers who enjoys slavish devotion to all things asian, I use it sparingly.  It has enjoyed very little face-time in my world, usually serving as the homeland for a far-travelling NPC.  Much like its real-world counterpart, it is a collection of small islands.  It is also a monarchy.  It frequently has expansionistic policies, although usually directed at its closest neighbor, Zhun.

Zhun– Zhun is a larger nation, also an island, located west of Shotan.  It is a large landmass, and is usually focused on its own internal wars.  Also intended to be asian in theme, but with more borrowed from Chinese culture.  Originally, I placed these nations in the world so that I could have two countries to work with if I ever wanted to run a game using the Oriental Adventures supplement.  Zhun is a monarchy as well, although its government changes as the internal wars progress.

You will notice the prevalence of monarchies in my game world.  This is because I think they work best for a fantasy setting.  I was never a big fan of the governments of Amn, Waterdeep, or Calimshan.  I always want a clearly defined head of the government, whether that is a single ruler or a group of them.  Within Valt, the myriad dangers from within the humanoid races and from beyond make more cumbersome forms of government unfeasible.  A government which cannot fall back to a single person (or very small group of people) to make decisions in times of emergency would probably not last long in this world.

In my further entries in this series, I will try and give more information on the various nations, as well as current organizations, lost civilizations, and broad groups of people that affect the world.  If there are any suggestions, I would be happy to oblige!  Knowing I have a reader waiting for some information is a great motivator.

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For this installment of the Deities of Valt series, I chose to detail Silduggis.  As the monolithic evil within my campaign, I thought it was high time I illustrated why he is so feared and hated.  When creating him, I set out to make a being that was more evil than evil, someone that even the highest celestial and lowest demon could join forces to fight.  Although Natalia lives in a time when Silduggis and his allies are banished or in seclusion, he is still a pivotal force in the world.

Silduggis (sill-DEW-giss)

The Nothing Eyes, Father of Darkness, Bringer of Ruin, the Soulless, Architect of Fear

NE Greater deity of the Soulvoid

 

Pantheon: Silduggan

Portfolio: Destruction, nothingness, fear, evil

Domain: The Soulvoid

Allies: Tantori, Hesta, Isnirine

Foes: Every deity not an ally

Superior: None

Symbol: A pair of eyes, all black with no pupils or irises

Worshipper Alignment: LE, NE, CE

Favored Weapon: “End” (Longsword)

Cleric Domains: Evil, Death, Destruction, War, Hatred

Summary: Silduggis is the sum of all evil.  More hateful than the most rancorous drow and more insidious than all the devils of the outer planes combined, he is the oldest resident of the Valt cosmology by far.

                Silduggis is no mere deity, that much is certain.  He grants spells as if he were a divine power, but he is in no way defined or limited by the belief of his worshippers.  He is just as powerful without them, and existed for thousands of years before deigning to allow mortal worship of himself.

                His goal is a simple one: to expunge Valt of all creation.  All of his many schemes and machinations revolve around that single end.  If he had his way, no living creature would remain, no natural formation would exist, and no remnant of civilization would stand.  He would be alone, drifting in a void where no concept had any meaning save for those of his own mind.

                What Silduggis can do is also a matter of conjecture.  In some historical accounts, he can breach the walls of planar existence and travel to other universes, bringing whole armies with him.  Yet he himself seems to be unable to dwell in any other universe.  Something about Valt is uniquely tied to him, and he to it.

                His exact nature is debated hotly amongst some scholars.  Some say that he is a god of unfathomable power, who is still worshipped after millennia of his absence in whatever world he came from, who seeks to be forgotten and thus die.  Another theory claims that there is a class of being even higher than gods, and that Silduggis was once one of that number, cast down and imprisoned in Valt for some unimaginable crime against reality.  Still another theory states that Valt was once, eons ago, a vibrant and living place, and that Silduggis is the only being to survive whatever catastrophe befell it, through unknown means.

                Whatever he is, he cannot be swayed from his ultimate goal.  Valt was once his, and over the course of his long history, he has fought mortals and gods for it.  He saw it expunged of all life once, and it is only a matter of time before he does it again.

History/Relationships: The Bringer of Ruin was the only resident of Valt long before the forebears of the elves and orcs brought their war to this world.  He dwelt in darkness, and would do so again.  Since the arrival of mortals and their tumultuous baggage of light, thought, and life, he has waged an endless war against every living being in creation.

                From the beginning, his battles were waged with three tools.  The first tool is fear.  Silduggis feels no need to kill his foes, their absence is all that is required, and if it is accomplished via their retreat rather than their death, then so be it.  The second tool is division.  Silduggis subtly encouraged war and opposition in the mortal races, to weaken and destroy them.  The third tool is destruction.  If the first two tools do not work, the Nothing Eyes will not hesitate to attack with brute force.

                At first he did his work alone, but as time went on and the mortal races began to dominate the world, Silduggis sought out allies, the first and greatest of which were the Tutuen-Nietwe, or the Thousand Horrors.  An army, each collected from a different universe, each the most terrifying thing that Silduggis could find in that universe, they are a diverse group.  Working independently, they can sow more fear than any mortal army.

                His second group of allies were the deities he recruited to aid him.  Hesta/Isnirine came to him, a deity dispossessed from her world.  She and the Father of Darkness forged an alliance.  If she aided him in his goal, when the Tutuen-Nietwe were all that remained on Valt, she would take command of the Horrors and return to her world, to retake that which was once hers.  Silduggis also appeared to the mortal cleric Tantori, once the most virtuous and pure mortal in the world, and in one moment plunged him into darkness.  Tantori now serves him as a deity, and the three of them embody Silduggis’s arsenal perfectly.  Isnirine represents destruction; Tantori subversion; and Hesta fear.

                Although each of the historical periods known as Darks have ended with the Tutuen-Nietwe being imprisoned within the Soulvoid, at the conclusion of the last Dark, Silduggis remains loose within the world.

Manifestations: Popular lore holds that Silduggis does not manifest, he possesses.  Any mortal, be it man or animal, can be a vessel for him.  Folklore holds that signs of Silduggan possession include the following: refusal to speak under any circumstances, the ability to command, summon or be immune to the powers of the Tutuen-Nietwe, and the eyes changing color to completely black.

                Rabbits, screech owls, and eclipses are signs of Silduggis’s influence, and are commonly associated with him even in civilized lands.  In more barbaric cultures, other elements may be viewed as tainted by the Soulless.

                Scholars say that Silduggis possesses a person in order to learn about the creatures who infest the mortal planes, who are so far beneath him that it takes concentrated study on his part to understand their motivations and drives.  After the possession ends, the person is irrevocably evil, and will carry out any instructions left by the Nothing Eyes.  As such, any suspected victims of possession are swiftly executed.

                When Silduggis is depicted in mortal form, it is often as a man with wavy black hair and a thick black beard.  Usually he is depicted as wearing black, stylish clothing, or being clothed in darkness.  Always his eyes are shown as blank pits.

THE CHURCH

                The church of Silduggis has no structure or order.  Although priests may establish cells or cults, there is no greater organization that they follow.

Priests: Destroyers, Dividers, or Terrors, depending on the tool of Silduggis they prefer most.

Alignment: LE, NE, CE

Classes: Cleric, Blackguard, Assassin

Dogma:  Drive them away.  Every living creature, every permanent construction, must be driven away or destroyed utterly.  The method matters not.  Only the result.  The outer planes are of no consequence.  Once the world is void of all, the Father of Darkness will sever their connections and cast them adrift in planar space.  There is no master save for the Soulless, and he will give you no loyalty.  You are as abominable to him as any of the creatures you oppose.

Day-to-Day activities: Priests of Silduggis go about their business, opposing mortals and all their works in a variety of ways.  Each is left to his own devices to pursue the destruction or banishment of all life on Valt in whatever method he deems appropriate.  One priest might blight food crops, while another seeks to cause a war between two rival nations.  Any priest will seize upon an opportunity to release the seal on the Soulvoid if they can do so, and during the historical periods known as Lights, this is their top priority.

Worship Locations: None.  The idea of having a permanent building to the Nothing Eyes, or even an emotional connection to a single location, is anathema to the church.

Affiliated Orders: The Inevitable Brethren is a group of monks who have dedicated themselves to the destruction of the world, and they worship the Silduggan pantheon equally.  The Edge of Nowhere is a group of blackguards and evil cavaliers who have dedicated themselves to the bloodshed and death that service to Silduggis will bring, reasoning that they will be dead long before his plans come to fruition.

Apostasy: None.

Vestments: None.  The Silduggan clergy do not wear distinctive garb, or have any unity with regards to their holy symbols.  Frequently they will wear black on the rare occasion when they wish to reveal what they really are.

Holy Days/Ceremonies: None.

Oath: Betrothed to the Void.  If a priest with this oath dies, she can never be resurrected or contacted by any means.  In exchange, she can use the Silent Spell feat or the Still spell feat even if she does not have them.  This ability can be used 1/day per point of Charisma bonus, and two uses can be combined to use both feats.  When used in this fashion, the level of the spell does not increase.

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